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Guyana to reform oil laws and gain wealth fund with Commonwealth support

2 May 2017
“The inputs of partners like the Commonwealth are critical to the success of this country and its people” – Guyana’s Minister of Natural Resources

New oil discoveries off the coast of Guyana mean the country is poised to become a major new petroleum producer in the coming years.

One well drilled in October 2016 has been described by Exxon Mobil as “confirming a world-class resource discovery in excess of 1 billion oil-equivalent barrels”. The find could earn the small South American nation, with a population of about 800,000, multiple billions of dollars in tax revenues.

Guyana’s Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, has confirmed the government intends to table new legislation before Parliament with the goal of moving to oil production in 2020.

The Commonwealth Secretariat has been advising the Ministry of Natural Resources since 2013 on the legislative and institutional reforms required to regulate Guyana’s emerging oil and gas industry.

Mr Trotman said: “The Ministry of Natural Resources has been especially fortunate to engage with the Commonwealth for the development of many of its policies, which are now coming of age as the country enters a new phase of development with the advent of its oil and gas industry.”

A new Sovereign Wealth Fund - a state-owned fund which will reinvest oil and gas revenues - and a new Petroleum Commission, a regulatory agency, are centrepieces of the proposed legal and institutional framework.

The Secretariat’s legal and economic experts have advised on draft legislation for the Sovereign Wealth Fund, a draft National Upstream Oil and Gas Policy, and a revision of Guyana’s Petroleum Exploration and Production Act and Regulations.

The reforms will ensure oil revenues benefit ordinary people in Guyana, through job creation and investments in public services and infrastructure

The Commonwealth Secretariat’s oceans and natural resources team has been working “assiduously” with the Ministry, said Mr Trotman. “This level of commitment has been the hallmark of the relationship developed with the Commonwealth team, and is highly valued,” he said.

Daniel Wilde, Economic Adviser on Natural Resources at the Secretariat, said the recent discoveries mean that Guyana is on a path to becoming a significant oil producer. “We are assisting the government ensure that this oil wealth is wisely managed and contributes to sustainable economic development.

“This involves advising the government on how to transparently and effectively regulate the upstream oil industry and  helping to establish a Sovereign Wealth Fund. This fund should ensure that oil revenues do not lead to a loss of economic competiveness and that future generations fairly benefit from today’s oil wealth.”

Minister Trotman continued: “Guyana has enjoyed decades of tremendous history and close co-operation with the Commonwealth as a member of the community and partner in development. The Commonwealth’s support for Guyana must be lauded, particularly for the impact made on governance, youth development, environmental stewardship and natural resources management.”

“We, at the Ministry and Government of Guyana, wish to extend sincerest thanks to the Commonwealth team for its unwavering and invaluable support as Guyana transitions from potential to prosperity. The inputs of partners like the Commonwealth are critical to the success of this country and its people. We look forward to continued advancement of our partnership.”